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the complexity of comparison

Posted by jeales on 05 Oct 2007 at 09:10 GMT

If we want to be able to make meaningful comparisons among journals, we will need a more detailed and sophisticated system in which individual papers, rather than journals, are classified into subject categories. Furthermore, these categories should have a hierarchical structure in which papers can be a member of many different categories. For example, a paper on bird behaviour would be a member of Ornithology and Behavioural Sciences, but automatically also of Zoology and Biology. Provided the number of papers is sufficiently large, this allows us to calculate separate impact statistics for each of these categories, resulting in multiple, subject-specific impact statistics per journal.
http://plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0000999#article1.body1.sec3.p2

I agree entirely with this recommendation in a theoretical sense. It is surprisingly unscientific to compare journals only based on IF (given the assumptions of the calculation). However, in this case, I think creating a hierarchical subject-specific measure of impact will just lead to greater confusion.